Why POTUS Will Come To Kenya.

Obama is not coming to Kenya and Kenyans are sulking. How? How can he not know that we should be top of the list…and that that should not have even been a subject of debate seeing that we are his relatives…brothers, sisters and cousins…albeit sometimes twice…thrice removed. But we are “blood” and after all…si nyumbani ni nyumbani! He can’t even listen to the tug of his shosho’s  umbilical calling?

So the discussion at the State department, as they met to plan the trip, should really have focused on whether he should also go to TZ and SA and all those other countries that naturally fall in behind Kenya…All things nice, about us considered.

My modest research tells me that the United States and Kenya have enjoyed cordial relations since Kenya’s independence. Relations became even closer after Kenya’s democratic transition of 2002 and subsequent improvements in human rights.

After Kenya’s independence on 12 December 1963, the United States immediately recognized the new nation and moved to establish diplomatic relations. The embassy in Nairobi was established 12 December 1963—Kenya’s Independence Day…Right on the same day. They celebrated our birthday with that! Very profound I must say!

Then again, more than 9,000 U.S. citizens are registered with the U.S. Embassy as residents of Kenya. In 2006 a record 86,528 Americans visited Kenya, up 17.6% from 2005. U.S. business investment is estimated to be more than $285 million, primarily in commerce, light manufacturing, and the tourism industry.

So really…How can Obama skip over us like that? We are also blood yawa! And I keep on coming back there because that is how it feels if your rela arrives in your part of the world to visit and then heads back out without visiting you…not even a phone call. Worse still…the rela visits a neighbor who you have never really had much in common with and that you don’t like very much…and then sends a message ati you pokea ,salaams from them akiwa safarini kuelekea!

It doesn’t matter that they have been MPesaing you with aid here and there. This rela, and especially if they came visiting from majuu, should know that you needed to spend some much previously touted floss time with them. So now, what will you tell the neighbors and others? Anything you say to them can and will be construed to be sour grapes!

And Kenyans did offer a lot of sour grapes on Facebook and twitter…Ati even its better that Obama is not coming because of the traffic jam that would have caused them to be late for work. Now I know a lot of who Kenyans do not have a strong work ethic and being late has never really been a bone of contention…more a good and plausible excuse!

Some were more realistic and closer to the truth when they talked about the gas / petrol lost while idling in the jam waiting for the plane to land, traditional welcome and signing of visitors book and then the msafara into city center of the guest and entourage. Others just shrugged it off in resignation and capitulation with a “si akae basi!…Na ata asikuje akimaliza kukuwa prezzo!

The Telegraph, in an update on the planing of the trip, carried a piece recently on how Barack and Michelle Obama have reportedly scrapped a safari during their trip to Africa, and while in TZ specifically, because of the costs of snipers needed “to neutralize cheetahs, lions and other animals if they became a threat..”! I shared that on FB and I got an earful in response from my friends! Some said it was just as well they will not visit Kenya because now the disappointment would have extended to our lions and cheetahs. Then we would be left to deal with them to calm them down.

Another said that that is just an excuse because the safari would have been during the day when the lions and cheetahs are already well fed (poor zebra and gazelles and gnus!) and are usually taking a lazy nap. The Chinese Premier paid a visit recently and he did a safari and he was okay…and he did check out the wildlife scene!

A more serious reaction involved someone suggesting that the lions and cheetahs are a metaphor for a wild and hard to understand or control local ‘tribes-people” and the snipers would be stretched to pinpoint where in the woody jungle they could be hiding and pounce from! Then there is the misplaced notion that animals just roam wild in Africa and intermittently show up in the city…Now I know why we have Zebra crossings!

What ever the reason for Obama circumventing us, we must move on because no amount of venting, short of picketing and bringing  Shosho or Dani from Kogelo to the picket line, will change that program. The Telegraph in the same story says that including this coming trip, “Mr Obama has spent less than 24 hours in sub-Saharan Africa during his time as president, when he visited Ghana in 2009…”

Kenya has never had a visit by a sitting US President and so maybe there is a good reason…and a pattern. Americans say “if it aint broke…Don’t fix it!” It aint broke with Kenya and so nothin’ needs fixin’ I guess. My sour grapes is that Obama and entourage have on their agenda to visit where it needs fixin’. We’re blood and he will come…In good time because like that song says…“Nyumbani ni nyumbani”!…Home is home!

©njeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations professional and a College Speech Communication teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.

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African Meets Squirrels In America!

200px-Sciurus_niger_(on_fence) Squirrels…They’re bunny-cute!…But it doesn’t mean I have to live with them!

So I had this family of squirrels (real ones!) who moved in with us…into our yard and finally made the other move into our attic for the winter! You know!…They wake up so early and generally cause such a racket up there…playing catch-me-if-you-can and cracking their nuts (real nuts please!) and then you cannot sleep in because they wake up so early to begin their day…even on a weekend! Now if they would just consult with the landlord and agree on sleeping …waking up and play time, maybe things would have been different. But Noooo! They just do what they want…and they don’t even pay rent!

I checked out the yellow pages and called an animal catcher…They who deal with pests like that…squirrels, snakes, raccoon, birds, bats, rodents…! I get a guy who came highly recommended to me by the animal catcher dept of the local municipal council. This fella arrives in a pimped up jeep, accompanied by his pretty, blond galffie and he himself dressed in shorts and bulging out of a Tee…He generally reeks ex-marine yadda yadda and after we get talking…yes! He IS ex-marine! And now I am thinking we are in business because he served in places with tougher animals and things…so whats squirrels! Rightie? Wrongie!

Inevitably and as we initially chat to get introduced, he latches onto my accent despite me making all the right noises of “How is y’all doin?…It’s kinda hat (hot!) taday!”…and he asks whether I “is from Jamaica”. I say “Naah!…I is fram Af’ica!”, I insist bado with akso and tweng to boot!…Then he dropped the bomb on me (More an IED since we are talking on the curb outside our house!)…”So how come…How you be scared of squirrels if you’se all from Af’ica???…They’s got all them big snakes over dere…and lions and things…?” I am wide-eyed now and think…”What the yonks!…This guy thinks I sleep with lions…after watching the movie “Sleeping With The Lions” I guess!

I breathe in and out…in and out…and ask him whether he thinks the snakes and lions and dem other animals is related to me and ask him whether he wants the job or not! He says he wants the job and that he specializes in snakes ‘specially…real big ones too!” and how he has been bitten so many times…”. I tell him snakes is for later and could he check it out and tell me what he’s gonna do! “Uh-Huh…well checkin it out is gonna cost you like $70 and then I’ma come back with traps and things”. I ask him how he didn’t bring the tools of his trade and things since I was clear on the problem I have and he chimes in about how the car he came in was not his work car and that he will come in the truck with the stuff after we settle the little matter of the “jus’ checkin it out” fee!

Long story short I told him that I needed to consult with my African hubby who has the check book authority. I told him in Africa hubbys are king of the hill and they must say yes…basically like in Lion King…I said! His lady was like “Wooow!…How cool! And y’all women in Africa don’t mind?”. I said we are happy about that and told her that he also bought me the brightly colored mumu I was wearing and that was billowing in the breeze on this rather warm spring day! I said to them I would call and so he gives me his cell number again and tells me I should call because they’s no telling how big the squirrels could grow up there then…who knows?..A collapsing ceiling owing to fat squirrels and …Yeah! We don’t want that happening do we now!

I watched them jump into their jeep and take off thinking…”Be gone before I set my lions that I keep in the bedroom upstairs and the gnu grazing in my backyard to kick your a… on ya!” I never called. But then I got this other excellent team of guys from Animal Removals LLC who came and were excited too to hear that we are from Africa. They did a great job and they were nice, skinny and lanky kids, dressed in green Tees that said “Animal Remover” across the chest…And who “squirreled” up the ladder, set the traps and soon the unwanted guests, lured by the mystery “goodies” they put in the traps, were history. And they sealed our roof too if just to let any other would be unwelcome tenants know that this house is closed for business!

But these guys were also cheerful and hilarious and the most they wanted to know is how to say “Hello”  in Swahili. So I said to them Hello in Swahili is….But that’s another story…

©njeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations professional and a College Speech Communication teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.

Women in Politics: Kethi To Join The Fray?

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So Kethi Kilonzo has said “yes” and then no…and now maybe, to the idea of slipping into her late father’s moccasins. The journey will now begins for this soon to be lady politician. Kethi’s rise is unique because her path into politics took a very different route than that of other political inheritors like Ngala, Mudavadi, M’Maitsi, Juma Boy, Khaniri and a host of others. She is, first and foremost, the first female to inherit a political seat (and she will win if precedence on post incumbent dad’s death, poli-inheritance is anything to go by), all the others coming before her having been men.

The similarities with her male counterparts ends at that point. Kethi can actually lay claim to the title of emergent or a people evolved leader following her never before seen and people judged, classic performance, as an attorney representing AFRICOG, a social activist group, as an interested party at the historical Supreme Court 2013 election petition. Her papa was still alive and sitting right next to her in the courtroom, as she made her debut quasi-political statement and appearance. He annointed her his successor there and then. She acquired overnight super-star status and the local dailies and social media were awash with glowing epithets one of which said “Kethi for president!”Okay…that was a bit much!

But I am a tad worried for her. She has been plummeted into politics feet first amid the euphoria that surrounded the election petition. It is all so heady considering that she must have not seen that coming and is now transfixed like a deer caught in the headlamps of an oncoming car. Will she make it across the road or be struck down in the prime of her life and be consigned to the political wasteland of women who have tried so hard to be accepted as equals in politics, but have come through with titles like iron lady and little else is remembered of them?

I am concerned about the challenges that lie ahead for this young lady who is really going into this hostile territory as a political minion! What will be Kethi’s role in the Senate and how will she expect to fare as compared to those who have gone before her?

I call it hostile territory because historically, democracy has not been kind to women and has served men better than it has women. Political thinkers and philosophers of yore such as Aristotle, Plato, Hobbes…the darlings of our Basic Concepts class at the UON… thought women as being only fit for certain roles in society such as being good mothers and wives! Now who would have thought…The starters and discoverers of democracy as we know it today!

This thought has been sifted through the years and despite the strides that have been made in the increased percentage of women involved in politics today, women’s domestic role of mother and cleaner and cooker and everything else will come later, has remained deep-rooted and entrenched. It is like DNA that is hard to shake off and we remain attached to the hearth, with helix apron strings, while the patriarchy of the male ego reigns supreme.

In a 2005 paper titled Women’s Political Participation: Issues and Challenges prepared for the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) Expert Group Meeting held in Bangkok, Farzana Bari quotes Adrienne Rich to define patriarchy as “A familial-social, ideological, political system in which men by force, direct pressure or through ritual, tradition, law, and language, customs etiquette, education, and the division of labor, determine what part women shall or shall not play in which the female is everywhere subsumed under the male.” That right there is the totalitarian nature of patriarchy and so what chance have women ever had…even before they started?

Consequently, when women enter politics within this context, chances that they will have a lasting impact are mediated and watered down by the stiff opposition they will experience from their male counterparts. Clearly, this is that last bastion of male dominance and as nature will have it, men will fight tooth and nail to remain at the top of the food chain in the political jungle. Women will forever be made to feel that they are where they are…whether in the Senate or parliament…as a token from the alpha male.

Never mind that in other circumstances women have to campaign 100 times harder than the men…and in high heels, skirts and with babies on their backs too! Women have to exert themselves harder campaigning on issues and at the same time dealing with demeaning insults that are grossly below the belt.

Wangari Maathai offers a classic example of a woman with an exemplary book education and who in jumping into the political foray found that the transition did not sit well with her supporters who thought she did a better job from the outside than if she became a hard core politician. She however went ahead and  while vying for a political seat in the 1980’s, against her ex-husband, she stated the classical statement at one of her campaigns, aimed at her opponent…telling him that he should keep the campaign clean and focus on issues that are above the neck and not below the belt! She was of course referencing the unfair insults that she had to endure from her opponent’s campaign machine that unfairly alluded to bedroom issues and other sexual innuendo!

We have seen other brave ladies such as Martha Karua, come into politics leaving behind their professional careers and which they excelled at. She who become only the second women in Kenya to vie for the presidency, after Charity Ngilu. Ms. Karua would however carry the campaign further than even Ngilu but alas the criticisms that followed her everywhere including the fact that she is a mere women saw her perform badly. She was beaten into fifth place by a johnnie-come-lately-into-the-election maverick, Abduba Dida, who had campaigned nowhere nearly as long, hard and as widely as Martha Karua.

Martha, also known as the iron lady was the subject of so much male (and female) derision and they did not pass the chance to take pot-shots at her. They reveled in stories that told of her clandestine sexual escapades and her unwomanly or unmotherly instincts that cast doubt on whether she was not really a man dressed in female hormones!

As I was writing this piece, there was an interesting heated discussion on CNN on why Hilary Clinton will or will not win the 2016 presidential election. A statement by one of the discussants filtered through to me. Hilary Clinton will not win because she is too masculine…She might however win because she is cheerful. Really? Its back to basics and women even as powerful as Mrs. Clinton must first be the traditional happy woman?

So…Charity Ngilu, Martha Karua, Wangari Maathai and now possibly Kethi Kilonzo. She can choose to emulate past women politicians…Wangari Maathai had a checkered mainstream political career but was wildly successful as an activist or critique from the edge and went on to become a Nobel laureate. Martha Karua…also successful but thanks to sideshows we remember little of her success and more of her grit and iron and anger. Charity Ngilu…Oh well!

I have some advice for Kethi…She needs to do some soul searching and make quick decisions about what her objectives will be and how she will go about achieving them. She should determine what and how she can bring her immense popularity and while it lasts to her new job as Senator for Makueni. She should just be herself and not strive to earn the masculinity and other hardnosed titles. The people love her as the intelligent, soft-spoken but pleasantly surprisingly brilliant person that she is. They already know she is a mother too. She should remember it is not going to be easy…men will be men and when push comes to shove, they will push hard, despite who her daddy was!

Yes. Kethi has the unique opportunity of charting a new course: Finding and setting a new approach to winning our rightful position alongside our men in politics, while remaining a lady but winning hands down, without necessarily taking the bait and turning into a clone of our women politicians, that has been cleverly crafted by men about us, over the years.

©njeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations professional and a College Speech Communication teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.

Eric’s Madaraka Day Today!

Happy Madaraka Day Eric!…It is Eric’s Madaraka day. He has been conferred the power to exit the stage of life. He is graduating to the hereafter, where silence and peace reigns. Where there is no more sadness, no more tears, no more heartache’s, no more fears. In the twinkling of an eye he is airborne and it’s a flight with no stopovers, connections nor layovers…because all that, he did here on earth.

The flight path is set and the flying time counted in numbers of infinity. His flight was called early, before his bags were packed…He was not ready to go. But like every one of us, he was already at the airport. We all are perpetually at the airport…or in a jam hurrying to get there. And once we are there, we are waiting in line for the flight to be called.

Code Blue!…Eric’s flight was called and he rose to join the queue, the exit papers in hand, his luggage in his heart and whose weight began to dissipate with the stamp of the exit visa. His step became lighter and slow motion as he faced the tunnel. He turned to wave a big Colgate smile on his face…never mouthing a goodbye…he turned again and resolutely walked…and walked…swallowed by the tunnel.

He will exit at 200…400 thousand feet…soaring like a bird and colliding with the clouds and atmosphere and temperature and climate. Steady…steady…air pockets notwithstanding…Higher and higher, euphoric and weightless. Eric’s Madaraka day…He’s got the Power…and he made it rain!

 

©njeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations professional and a College Speech Communication teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.